Email Us My Blog

Christian Brothers vs Mary Raftery (in Irish Times) re Abuse Files and Convictions

Christian Brothers and Abuse File

Irish Times, July 16, 2004

Madam, - It is not correct to say that the Christian Brothers have spent years denying the contents of their files, including evidence of sexual abuse by some of their members (Mary Raftery's column, July 8th). Almost six years have passed since they first issued a message which included an acknowledgement and an apology.

Examination of the archives at the Congregation's headquarters in Rome has shown that there is clear evidence of decisive actions taken by the General Council on allegations of sexual abuse. Investigations and decisions were followed by action appropriate to each situation, including dismissal from the Congregation. These amount to the "formal trials" referred to by Ms Raftery.

The vast majority of the cases referred to in the General Council's archives in Rome took place before current and recent members of leadership teams were born or before they had entered the Congregation. Investigation of archival records by leadership, in these instances dating back up to seventy years, would normally be carried out as needs arose. All records and files on these matters are to be made available to the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse. The most recent archival search in Rome was done in early June of this year.

The Christian Brothers continue to assert that there was neither "widespread" nor "systematic" sexual abuse in institutions under their management. To make assertions to the contrary does not serve well the interests of truth, fairness and ultimately justice. To use the term "paedophilia" indiscriminately is dangerous, to say the least.

The leaders of the Christian Brothers in Ireland have no evidence available to them that "Brothers had actually admitted during the \ investigation [by the gardaí] that they had sexually abused boys." If Ms Raftery is aware of such names, as she seems to claim, then in the public interest, congregational leadership and the gardaí ought to be informed.

In grave matters such as this, it is unfair to arrogate to oneself the authority to write of the existence of "a significant number of acknowledged Christian Brother paedophiles \ have not been charged and will now not even be named."

Surely charging, naming and finally making findings of guilt or innocence must be left to the courts and the legal processes of the State. The DPP is an independent law officer.

Had the files sent to him by the investigating gardaí been sufficient, he would have directed the appropriate prosecutions to be made, rather than making the "one single solitary charge" which was brought.

The columnist refused to view either the position of the DPP or the discovery of evidence and its publication to the Commission as a positive advance. This illustrates the bias and unreasonableness of the position set out in her article.

- Yours etc.,

Brother EDMUND GARVEY, Director of Communications, Christian Brothers, Dublin 7

Brothers' Files on Child Abuse

Irish Times, July 14, 2004

Madam, - The plaintive cry of Ms Mary Raftery, in her article "O Brothers, where art thou?", (July 8th) begs the answer, "O Sister, did you try the phone?". Personally, I find, although the Christian Brothers she so desperately seeks are involved in the spirituality business, they're not so hot on telepathy. My guess is no phone was involved. The Brothers have already stated that the files in Rome which were collated six weeks ago (not last year as reported by Ms Raftery) revealed 30 abuse cases. In these, contrary to previous reporting of leniency by the CB leadership where child abuse was concerned, the opposite was true. The perpetrators were punished to the full extent of the Canon Law. If the Brothers had been aware of the files before, it would have been to their advantage to disclose them.

Ms Raftery goes on to say she has for the past five years stated (and indeed she has) that "extensive internal knowledge of the criminal activities of many Christian Brothers was to be found in their central archives in Rome, buried carefully out of public reach. . .yet the Brothers (in the form of Brother David Gibson) informed the Commission on Child Abuse, under oath, that they discovered this documentation only in the last year". What is she suggesting?

Ms Raftery has certainly raised some very interesting issues; I eagerly await the response of the Christian Brothers.

- Yours, etc.,

FLORENCE HORSMAN-HOGAN, Let Our Voices Emerge (LOVE), Seaview Wood, Shankill, Co Dublin.

O Brothers, Where Art Thou?

Irish Times, July 08, 2004 by Mary Raftery

It was by any standards a sensational announcement. After years of denial, the Christian Brothers finally admitted last Friday that they possess in their files confirmation of sexual abuse of children by a number of their members in industrial schools.

The records go back to the 1930s and detail a total of 30 internal "formal trials" where Brothers were found guilty of these criminal offences. All of these appear to have been kept secret, with no information conveyed to either the State or gardaí.

During the decades in question, it was a criminal offence to withhold information on a crime from gardaí.

There can be no doubt that all of those within the Christian Brothers who were involved in these secret internal trials of paedophiles and who did not inform gardaí were themselves guilty of a criminal offence.

On a number of occasions over the past five years, I have publicly stated that extensive internal knowledge of the criminal activities of many Christian Brothers was to be found in their central archives in Rome, buried carefully out of public reach.

And yet, last Friday the Brothers (in the form of Brother David Gibson) informed the Commission on Child Abuse under oath that they discovered this documentation only in the past year, after dispatching an archivist to investigate. It would be interesting were the commission to ask other senior Christian Brothers, particularly current and former congregation leaders who actually worked in Rome, about their knowledge of these secret internal trials.

Who knew what, and when, within the brothers is a crucial question. Over the past 10 years gardaí have been engaged in at least five separate, large-scale investigations into allegations of widespread and systematic paedophilia in a number of institutions run by the Brothers.

It is now clear that what has happened in some of these investigations is nothing short of a scandal. Take Artane, for instance. The gardaí took well over 500 statements alleging child abuse against more than 150 Brothers. Around half of these Brothers are still alive. Eventually, after painstaking investigation by a large team of full-time gardaí, files on up to 40 current and former brothers were sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions with recommendations that charges be brought.

And the outcome of probably the largest child sex abuse investigation ever in the history of the State? One single solitary charge, brought back in 1999 during the earliest stages of the operation, and which has yet to come to trial. Only a few months ago, the DPP made his final decision that there would be no further charges laid against any brother in Artane. This is despite the fact that in some cases, Brothers had actually admitted during the investigation that they had sexually abused boys. Needless to say, neither gardaí nor the DPP were aware of the existence of records detailing no fewer than 11 internal trials of Brothers in Artane for child sexual abuse.

How convenient then that the congregation's release of this damning information should come after the DPP's final decision to have no prosecutions.

The timing is also noteworthy in the context of the Child Abuse Commission's recent decision that it will not name anyone accused of abuse who has not been convicted in the courts. The Christian Brothers fought the commission in the High Court to force such a decision. They were partially successful and they won their costs. Thus, with supreme irony, the taxpayer has actually paid to keep secret the identities of paedophile Brothers found guilty by their own congregation.

The final piece of the timing jigsaw is of course the infamous Church/State deal, where 18 religious orders have now been fully indemnified by the State in return for a paltry contribution of perhaps 10 per cent of the final bill for compensating the victims of abuse.

The Dáil Public Accounts Committee resumes its examination of this deal today, with the religious orders being called to begin their evidence. Uppermost in the minds of the committee will doubtless be the fact that the government knew nothing of the evidence of child sexual abuse in the Christian Brothers' files when it concluded the notorious deal. Meanwhile, of course, the Brothers laugh all the way to the bank.

Vague public apologies from the Taoiseach, as reiterated by him last Monday, are all very well in their own way. But they do nothing to address the scandal that a significant number of acknowledged Christian Brother paedophiles have not been charged, and will now not even be named by the State's inquiry apparatus.

It must surely be the duty of every Irish citizen to demand that justice be done, that those who perpetrated such atrocities on children - and those who knew about such criminality - should be brought to justice. Gardaí must reopen their investigations and the DPP must reconsider his decisions not to prosecute. Without this, there remains a gaping and shameful abscess festering at the heart of our criminal justice system.